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Mahlee and Blanche Sackville are half-sisters, Blanche the daughter of an Englishman and his wife, Mahlee of the Englishman and his Chinese mistress. Mahlee rejects her people and attempts ... See full summary »
'Casanova' shows Mosjoukine at his most light-hearted - like the great artist he was, he makes everything seem easy. This movie is episodic in structure, almost like a collection of short stories. Casanova bounces from one adventure to another, going from Venice to Austria to Russia and finally back to Venice again, and always in the service of women, as he puts it in a letter to a man he's good-naturedly robbed. In the end, all his romancing catches up with him, and he's forced to choose between two women - the scene where they both confront him reminds me a little of Moliere's Dom Juan, though Mosjoukine's Casanova is far more innocent. He delights in tricking and robbing men, especially the pompous and undeserving, but the moment he realizes that he has hurt a woman, his heart is crushed, and he surrenders to his enemies. Mosjoukine always demonstrates great sensitivity to women and I think this is at the root of his only unconvincing moment in the film. When he meets a young girl who is disguised as a boy, he's just too aware of her as a woman to be able to play the role of someone who's fooled into thinking that he's dealing with another man. But apart from this, Mosjoukine's performance is flawless. Rudolf Klein-Rogge, as the half-mad Czar Peter, is also brilliantly funny, marching around barking orders for his soldiers to recover from typhoid, and complaining that the business of state keeps distracting him from his fat, plain mistress. He also accomplishes the rare feat of upstaging Mosjoukine in their one scene together, when Casanova gives the Czar a manicure, and where they play off each other like a seasoned comedy team. Their by-play is so natural, and almost under the radar (the scene is mostly filmed in a kind of medium long shot, not at all focusing on them), it makes me think that they might have been ad-libbing. Klein-Rogge is obviously very comfortable playing comedy, and it would have been nice to see him do more in this vein. The music by Georges Delerue for the restoration of 'Casanova' is perfectly suited to the light-hearted freedom of the piece, and makes the whole experience a joy.
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